Cutting Dinnertime Chaos
It’s six o’clock. Do you know where your dinner is? If you’re like many busy parents these days, dinner is probably somewhere at the bottom of a grocery bag waiting to be unpacked and popped into the microwave, or worse yet, just sitting on the kitchen counter frozen solid with no future dinner plans in sight. And to top it off, the kids have just circled the wagons around the kitchen whining that they want to eat NOW!
If you rush to get dinner to the table every night (getting a bad case of indigestion in the process), following these three simple rules is sure to help ease the chaos and turn an evening of frustration into a super supper.
This first step is often overlooked but so important! The night before you go grocery shopping, sit down and map out your dinners for the coming week. Yes, a menu planner! But before you roll your eyes and think it’s just one more thing to do, consider this: A menu planner doesn’t have to be elaborate to be helpful. Even jotting down a few family favorites such as baked chicken, beef tacos, or spaghetti on a sheet of paper and sticking it to the refrigerator door will save you time each day. Or, better yet, divide a sheet of paper down the middle. On one half write out your meals and use the other half as a grocery list, noting all the ingredients you’ll need for the week.
If you want to be really organized, you can keep a list or set of index cards with quick family favorites written down—then divide them by main dish category. This will take a bit of time at first, but once it’s done your cards will help you quickly choose sure-to-please meals with minimal effort. And if you’re a cost-cutter, you can plan your meals using your grocery store’s sale flier to help you choose cheaper cuts of meat, fish on sale, etc. The few extra minutes it takes to look at your meal list and see what’s on sale will eventually save you time AND money!
Once your shopping is done, post your weekly menu and consult it daily. In the morning, before you head out the door, glance at your menu planner and pull what you need from the freezer or the pantry. Have those ingredients ready for when you return home that night. Because you planned ahead, you should have everything already on hand. See how painless that is? No more staring at the stove each evening wondering what the heck you’re going to cook—the decision has already been made!
Keep it Simple
If you’ve ever started to cook a new recipe at six o’clock only to find yourself still in the kitchen two hours later, pushing back the hordes of hungry hecklers, you know the value of preparing a quick and easy dinner. By the time you do get the food to the table, more than likely tempers are short for having waited so long. Talk about good intentions gone wrong. Save the spicy Indian vindaloo for the weekend when you have more time and energy to be creative, and instead keep your weekday meals simple—stick to pasta and a salad, a vegetable pizza, or grilled chicken or fish. If you want to add more pizzazz, try using a bottle of your favorite Italian salad dressing as an impromptu marinade.
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